Wednesday, February 22, 2017


 The adoption community is all about attachment. I mean REALLY all about attachment. Before we even finished the process to bring a child home, we had to attend all of these required trainings to learn how to help our new child attach to our family. Even at the time it felt a little overkill to me, but I jumped through the hoops because it was part of the expectation for adoption.

I mean, I understand: it's important for both the child and the family to feel connected, especially since you don't have the pleasure of growing a baby in your body and welcoming them into the brand-new world. To create the connections that one needs for lifetime relationship, it takes intentionality.

But recently, I have read a couple of posts from popular adoption blogs debunking the myth of attachment as the sole pinnacle of a good adoption. Kids come home with so many challenges, and it's nearly impossible to imagine that we might attached to them in the same ways that we attached to our biological children.

Maybe it depends on who the kid is that you bring home, but in our case, attaching to Matthew and loving him have taken a different path than with our first two, homegrown babies. 

And it's not bad. It's just different. It has taken me several years to be able to say these words and not feel guilty about them.

I love Matthew deeply. I do. He's a hard guy to parent, but I feel very connected to him. But because of his many challenges, especially with autism, it's not possible for me to have the same kind of social relationship that I have with my first two children. Matthew doesn't give love and affection back in the same way.

I'm being honest, I have carried a lot of shame and guilt about this for quite some time. We did everything the adoption agencies, the books and the blogs said to do: We wore him in the ergo, we did skin to skin time, We fed him his bottle hundreds of times while snuggled up close, and for several months after he came home, we kept our lives very simple and focused on him. Both my husband and I did hours and hours of floortime, playing with Matthew, teaching him skills, helping him with emotional and social growth. 

I don't regret doing any of these things. They helped build the foundation for the relationship that we have with our youngest son. But along the way I have carried quite a lot of guilt over not having an attachment with Matthew that mirrors our attachments to our other two kids.

So just like so many other things on this adoption journey, I am learning to let go of that too.

And instead I'm trying to open my heart to the relationship I do have with Matthew: one that is filled with humor, fun, and a sense of presence. When I am with him, I try my best to be very present with him. And when I'm away, I try my best to get the breaks I need and not worry about him and what he's up to. 

There are so many things I could worry about. But by letting go of some kind of forced notion of attachment, I find I can re-orient myself to the relationship I DO have with my child: One that may not look typical but is deep and real in the best way it can be. 

And then I'm free to be Matthew's mama in the best way I know, which I hope is also the best for my sweet boy.

1 comment:

  1. The adoption community is tough in so many ways. We were told our daughter couldn't attach because it was our issue. We did everything right too and our daughter on the spectrum still hasn't attached. The best we have received after close to four years, is her liking us. She only has a slight attachment to one parent and that's it. We felt tremendous guilt and loss over the situation and desperately would have given anything to have the story others experienced. Then, we adopted again..and again and realized our other four kids made up of 2 bio kids and 2 adopted were attached and doing equally well. I found us then experiencing what the " rest" of the adoption community experienced....a grafting in and merging of all of us into one bug family. It has been amazing and miraculous. Unless. People have walked the road we have been on, they can not begin to fathom the pain. Do we love our mostly unattached girl, yes? But in our case, we know as a family, selfishly that we need connection and without it, we have little to keep us going. I look at your story and know the effort, time, devotion, determination, all that goes into the road you walk..and few people will ever get that truly. It's so hard, discouraging and some days can drag you down so far you wonder if you'll ever be able to get back up. It's that hard. This abyss of uncertainty, trying to stay positive, hopeful in the midst of an unplanned life change. But you do it. You stay the coarse and no one will realize how much strength that takes! It takes sheer will, tons of prayer and on and on. You should be so impressed with what you have been able to do because many of us, couldn't do it. We struggled bad. But in the end, we will likely try to move our girl on to another family with that same sheer will and determination you have, because she deserves nothing less. We just don't have it in us..and we know it. But as I read YOUR story, I see our story in yours, yet every family looks at things differently. Just always so happy to hear other parents in the trenches speak openly about this little less known adoption road. I wonder had I read your blog five years ago, would I have lived a different path? You speak truth and wisdom. You may never know the impact your words will have in future adoptive parents. Many adoptive families may read your hard and realize they too can do it and adopt a child with known issues out of their comfort level..because you get them to think about a different perspective they never thought to think. And in other cases, your words may be the Calvary saving other families from what could ruin them by getting them to see that their family couldn't handle this or that or that over there. Your words will pierce through into others lives and answer a prayer or multiple prayers. All from the same blog..your blog. Your honesty. All and any of it. All worked and working together to shine a light in someone else dimly lot or dark road. You will be the light and you are and so Grateful you speak. I pray you continue to rise high, you are a blessing to other families! :)